Monday, July 8, 2013

Sink or Float?

As a toddler, Buddy wants to explore the world. He is trying to figure out how everything works. In order to encourage his enthusiasm for the world around him, I set up his pool for a little experiment of "sink or float?"

I put a few inches of water in the pool, we gathered supplies from around the house and yard and started throwing them into the pool. After every addition I said, "it floats!" or "it sinks!" Buddy did repeat "sink!" or "foat!" a couple of times, but he was more interested in pouring the water out of the containers we had brought outside.

Buddy getting ready to throw in a rock.
"Sink!" The rock sinks and makes a big splash! Buddy liked to watch it splash over and over...
 I encouraged Buddy to find more objects and see if they would sink or float, but his interest was not in the experiment I had laid out. It happens! I have to go with the flow with my independent thinker. Instead of watching items sink or float, Buddy explored the properties of water. What makes the biggest splash? How much water can each container hold? What happens when I swish the rake back and forth?
Buddy would rather make waves than conduct the experiment I had laid out. 
Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and let kids be kids.

 Young kids don't always have the same thought process as adults. Sometimes it is just better to let them try their own experiment. At this age I just want to see Buddy explore and figure out how things work. The real lesson is cause and effect, not density.
Today Buddy is checking out gravity instead of density.
 This is a great activity for kids of nearly any age. As long as they aren't putting everything in their mouth, try it with toddlers a little younger or increase your learning expectations with older kids too. As children begin to understand what makes something sink or float, pick up some items that may surprise them. Pumice is a rock, but it floats! You can start talking about density and what it means and how it affects what will float or sink. Will the same objects float or sink if this experiment is done in oil? Rubbing alcohol? Salt water? Why do boats float? I'll have to borrow some older kids to show you more details, but what kind of clay boat will sink or float? If you roll clay in a ball, will it sink or float? Have them make shapes out of the clay to try to make it float. What if you put something dense in a boat? A marble will sink in water, but can they get it to float on their homemade boat?

There are so many ways to adapt this experiment for kids. Get down on your child's level and make it fun for them while they learn.

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